Talks with India uncertain after Oli rhetoric?


Foreign policy experts and civil society members say that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s allegation that India is plotting to remove him from prime ministership would seriously impair Nepal’s relations with the southern neighbour.

Nepal’s former ambassador to Denmark Vijay Kant Karna said the language that the PM used yesterday against the Indian government was not the kind of language that a friendly country uses against a friendly neighbour.

“In diplomacy, a country takes note of each word used by the head of government of another country,” he said. He added that the PM’s allegation against India didn’t augur well for bilateral relations which were already strained due to border dispute in the north-west.

This means that India might not be willing to sit for talks to resolve border issues. “If we cannot hold dialogue with India to enhance cooperation in other areas, such as trade, transit, security and river management, then that will be a disadvantage for both of us,” he said. He added that the PM’s latest remarks against India were consistent with his conscious effort to talk ill of India and appease China.

“The PM wants to appease a section of society that equates India-bashing with nationalism.

This was the only reason the prime minister had said that coronavirus coming from India was more lethal than the strain of virus coming from China or Italy,” he added.

Karna said the PM had been provoking India and was going out of the way to appease China, violating the principles of nonaligned movement that Nepal adhered to.

Nepal’s former permanent representative to the United Nations Dinesh Bhattarai said the PM had overstepped diplomatic norms by accusing the entire Indian machinery of conspiring to remove him from power. “We have border disputes with India but that does not mean that the PM, whose word is final on diplomatic issues, should make such inflammatory remarks against a neighbour,” said Bhattarai.

He added that the PM’s remarks could impair Nepal-India relations in the long run. He said the PM’s remarks proved Indian media’s charges of jingoism against the PM.

Former speaker Daman Nath Dhungana said the PM’s speeches reflected the country’s policies, but the remarks Oli made yesterday against India were unceremonious.

“We may have issues with our neighbours, but we cannot use such language to oppose our neighbours,” Dhungana said,adding, “Although we should treat both our neighbours equally, we cannot forget the fact that we have more interactions, as well as dependency for certain things, on India.”

He said the only reason he played the India card was to cling on to power, as he had failed on the governance front.

Senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit tweeted, “PM KP Oli must be mindful of the need for verbal de-escalation with India, and of how his words will be carried, relayed and interpreted. This is essential from him for the sake of de-escalation on ground at Lipu Lek and mending the overall bilateral Nepal-India relationship.”

Security and foreign policy expert Shreedhar Khatri said Nepal had border dispute with China as well, since border pillars had not been erected in Lamabagar (Dolakha) and Lipulekh areas but the government chose to raise the dispute with India and kept mum on issues with China.

He said though India provoked Nepal to include Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani in the country’s map by ignoring Nepal’s call for dialogue, Nepal needed to show diplomatic maturity and seek negotiated settlement with India in a constructive manner.

“Passage of the constitution amendment bill by both houses was enough to give India the message of Nepal’s political resolve and national unity, but after the bill was passed by both houses, the government should not have proceeded to get it confirmed by the president. That would have given Nepal a chance to have dialogue with India,” Khatri said.

He added, “Dialogue is often held for compromise. But with the constitution already amended to include Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani in Nepal’s emblem, there is no room for dialogue.”

He said countries should avoid making their constitution an issue of bilateral negotiation.

Khatri does not think a dialogue will now happen with India on Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani issue.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 30, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.